What Tech Can Empower Today's Agribusiness? A Connected Fleet

Cedrik Kern

Today’s agribusiness operations are growing, and modern farms are much larger than farms were a decade ago. With that growth comes an increase in the number of tractors and other movable assets that are necessary to keep agriculture businesses running well. This creates a logistics nightmare for the modern farmer. To meet this challenge, connected fleet technology has evolved to offer services that agribusinesses of all sizes can benefit from.

Here are some proven ways that agribusinesses can get the most help from their connected fleets. Whether you are the owner of an agribusiness or a fleet manager who oversees a farming fleet, this technology will streamline your logistics and improve your overall effectiveness.

Optimize the use of assets with real-time data

When your tractors and trucks are in the field, you need to know what they’re doing so you can best use your people and your moveable assets. This requires real-time information about what is happening in the field, but it is not always easy to reach a tractor’s operator in the moment.

This real-time data makes it simple for operators to make changes in the field when needed. For instance, Farm Industry News notes, a target planting speed can be set in the technology. If a driver exceeds this speed, the manager would receive a notification. The manager could then contact the driver and request a slower rate of planting. Alerts for everything from engine temperature and fuel levels to driver behavior and maintenance schedules help ensure the operation is meeting its goals.

Use historic data for better planning

Connected fleets provide fleet managers with historic data that can help predict maintenance needs and optimize harvest logistics throughout the property and the fleet. This allows operators to better plan for maintenance around typically slow periods.

In addition, data from a fleet-management system allows farming managers to make informed decisions about vehicle replacement schedules, according to Big Ag. Data about vehicles’ fuel use, effectiveness, and maintenance needs helps ensure your fleet management team can plan effectively for upcoming vehicle purchases before your existing equipment fails.

Improve harvest by monitoring field activities

Real-time monitoring of field activities will help fleet managers make changes to improve yields in the moment. Consider a fleet that has four combines harvesting in the same field at the same time. With real-time data about how much those combines are harvesting, an operator will know if one combine is bringing in less than the other four. The fleet management technology allows remote viewing of the combine’s settings. After spotting the problem, the manager can alert the combine’s operator to make changes to limit the losses. This helps ensure the entire fleet of combines is operating at peak levels. These types of in-the-moment changes bring huge benefit to your farming operation, significantly improving yields and reducing losses.

Ensure proper documentation of activities

Documentation is necessary for hours-of-duty compliance in commercial vehicles, clocking employee hours, and insurance purposes. The more you can document, the better for your farming operation; a fleet management system makes this automatic. Modern fleet management systems for agribusinesses also contain electronic logs that meet specific compliance requirements, like the pending FMCSA Electronic Logging Device mandate for livestock hauling, which will impact certain ag businesses, says the Iowa Farm Bureau. Whether for compliance purposes or simply for your own business needs, a fleet management system will streamline these important documentation tasks.

Simplify oversight of multiple locations

Specialized farming equipment is costly. To save money, many farms are sharing high-value vehicles and other movable assets. Rental agreements and equipment sharing programs allow one piece of equipment to service many farms. Connected fleets make this type of sharing easier, allowing you to know where your assets are and how operators are using them at all times. Because these actions generate records within the fleet management system, clocking hours of use is simpler, and this streamlines billing.

Use geofencing to keep vehicles where they should be

Vehicle theft and unauthorized vehicle use are risks for mobile assets, and high-value farming equipment is a target for both. Geofencing alerts will tell you when a vehicle leaves a predetermined area. This means vehicles can be sent to remote locations with confidence that they’ll be secure.

If you own a farm or are a farming operation fleet manager, managing your many movable assets can be a logistics nightmare. With the right system, you can easily track the location of your assets, know how well they are performing, and plan for maintenance.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Consumer Industries. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?

Cedrik Kern

About Cedrik Kern

Cedrik Kern is Solution Owner of Digital Farming at SAP. He drives the development of the SAP platform for digital farming as a key innovation for agribusiness. Cedrik is part of the SAP solution management team for Agribusiness and Commodity Management. This team is responsible for defining our global strategy for agribusiness and commodity management. As an expert for agribusiness and commodity markets, he influences the SAP solution portfolio and has architected co-innovation solutions with global leaders in the commodity trading and consumer products industry. He is a regular speaker at events and conferences presenting SAP’s solution portfolio and innovations for this space.